Harris County Jail: Revisited

The security cops have confiscated my computer. Said they had to check for threats, bugs, secret messages.  That type of thing. I’m arrested. In handcuffs.  The handcuffs THAT acting consulate general said wouldn’t happen.  Oh, no no. We don’t do handcuffs, he said.  But here I am.  Sitting in the Security office for the Three towers at Post Oak Boulevard in Hot Houston. In handcuffs.   

   I was arrested unexpected like.  I was sitting in a folding chair outside the Reception Room of the General Consulate of India.  I had brought the folding chair from the house I was staying in and I had my  poster with Day 15 of a hunger strike posted and leaning against the wall.  An armful of flyiers was in my lap and I had already passed out about forty.  Very interesting reception that I was getting.  Almost every Indian I talked with acted totally surprised that the situation in Bhopal still existed.  Yes, it does, I said.  30 Bhopalis are dying a month from that release in l984.  Over 25,000 dealths.  Over 8 times the amount of  Americans that were killed during 9-11.  And the USA invaded two countries over that one!

   They express astonishment and some want to know EXACTLY what they can do.

     About this time, here come 3 men  sashaying out of the elevator.  They are dark suited, under-cover cops wearing badges.  They come directly to my chair.

 I’m astonished.  “Are ya’ll coming for me?”  I’m totally flabbergasted.  My jaw has dropped.  “Why that consulate general said I could sit here. “   

   No no, they say. You don’t have permission.

    Why,yes yes, I do have permission.  The acting consulate on Friday said I could stay here.  Just a bit away from that fancy consulate sign is all.”

   The three security cops exchange puzzled looks.  Consulate General?  Really?  Then they shift gears.  No no, you don’t have permission.

   Well, I refuse to leave because I know I DO have permission, but they’re not bothering to even check.  So I’m getting arrested.  The security cop says, C’mon, Momma.  C’mon with us.”  (Later and in confidence, the security cop says maybe that consulate knew what he was doing when he got you to move away from that sign.  Are you sayin he set me up? I say.  Could be, he says.)

   Pretty fast I’m delivered to that wicked ole Harris County jail. It’s wicked alright. It averages 22 deaths a year.  Just recently, in April, a prisoner that was brought in for a hot check died because of some sort of choke hold administered by some sort of guard.  So the Feds are coming in to investigate the string of deaths and wondering what else is being violated.  What will they find in Harris County Jail. 

    What I find is  36  hours of  a processing nightmare. No sleep unless you like sleeping on a cement floor where a stream of women have come and gone for days.  Plus its  crowded, plus its  cold.  One woman got a roll of toilet paper and wrapped her legs.  Another woman pulled the plastic garbage liner out of the trash can, ripped a hole for her head, and pulled it over her.  I get double time in that cold holding cell because a guard took a real dislike to me and put my processing papers back for the next shift.  They tell us over and over again.  “We can turn out the lights and nobody will know you’re even there.”  It’s not a veiled threat. It’s a real threat.  




    Around six oclock of the next evening Im ordered into a medical unit with fifty women.  Every seat on the bench is taken.  At least twenty women are sprawled on the floor.  I’m one of them on the floor and confused out of my mind. I get dizzy lifting my head.  I haven’t had water in two days but liquids are one thing these guards are not big on.  My breath is beginning to stink but I don’t worry. Everybody in this cell is stinking.  For once it is not cold.  This time it is hot– and fifty female bodies make it worse.  The medical unit is a little strange.  Not something that I remember from the last time I was in Harris County Jail. Then– way back when– dying on the floor wouldn’t get you into the medical unit.  Having a heart seizure wouldn’t do it neither.  You could bleed to death and it would be alright. 

    One of the girls explained the crowed room.  The feds are coming in next week, she said.  Checking who is and who ain’t getting medical attention if they want it.  Seeing who died too, and what were the circumstances.

   So apparently EVERYBODY coming in now goes straight to medical after 30 hours of a processing torture.  Some are sick (staph infection that is a potential killer), some are mentally ill (one girl has gone off three times into a hysterical frenzy about being a model and a college graduate and having 4 boyfriends and the only reason she’s in jail is because SOMEBODY stole her air conditoner.)  One young black girl, 21 years old, is eight months pregnant.  She said she knows three women who lost their babies in jail. Even though her water is leaking and she is bleeding, she thinks she will do alright, though.  She will be ok. 

One woman inmate said “Do not dare talk to those investigators coming here.  You will end up dead dead.    Her own daddy died in the same jail.  Ruled a suicide, but the girl said, Tell me how he could’ve killed himself.  There wasn’t no way he could’ve  where he was found.”  Another woman inmate is trying to convince her to talk.  She said she saw a woman die.  Right there, she says and points to a low cement bench in the unit we’re in.  Margarita was her name and before she died that woman said to me, “Lookey here at these sores. Lookey here”.  Margarita had two huge cankerous sores: one on her chest and another on her arm.   Well, Margarita died right there.  She had diabetes.  Plus stapth infection.  Anyhow, she died.

    Looks like we’re gonna be in medical a long long time. Guess I’m right because a guard comes in and says, Y’all gonna be here a long long time.  Might even have to pull y’all out in the morning for court, then throw y’all back in.   Eventually the girl with the air conditioner goes crazy and some of the inmates start howling to be let out of the room.  One girl says. Don’t matter. It’s crowded upstairs, too.  Wherever you go, its crowded.

     Next is the strip down.  Total strip down.  Worse than having a baby.  Im getting a little sick with the whole thing and try to imagine myself in a room all by myself.  But nope. Twenty women in the middle of a strip down.  Worse than having two babies.  Finally I get issued my orange jail outfit and ten minutes later I find I’ve been bonded out but I’m totally paranoid that I really won’t be allowed to leave.  I’ll be stuck in a cell with the lights out.  Nobody will know I was even there. 

16 Responses to “Harris County Jail: Revisited”

  1. Greg Moses Says:

    Damn grrrl. As if Beatrice grabbed Dante by the ankle and pulled him straight down into that seventh hell (from that skytop consulate, no less).

  2. Sherry Frosh Says:

    Hullo! I’m so glad you’re you! Have you gotten any fluids yet? How are you doing healthwise? They are such brutes for treating you like that! And they shouldn’t even treat criminals like that! Under what possible law could they arrest you?

    The ladies in jail here had a tough time too – 11 days – Its posted on the June 15th blog.

    love, sherry
    (from Houston, and then Boston, and now Delhi)

  3. anonymous Says:

    Is the AID bhopal folks looking talking to the consulate to understand why Diane is arrested?

  4. Eric Thompson Says:


    I just wanted to let you know that your efforts inspire so many to do what ever it is, that they can. Shine on.


  5. Diane Says:

    thanks Eric, after Jail those are mighty nice words. i will indeed try to shine on. thanks thanks, diane

  6. Chris Cobler Says:

    Hello Diane,

    I have been the editor of the Victoria Advocate since April 2007. I just saw “Texas Gold” on the Sundance Channel and would like to put a reporter in contact with you for a follow-up story. What’s the best way to reach you? My email is ccobler@vicad.com.


    Chris Cobler

  7. Anna Says:


    I wanted to second Eric’s comment that your efforts are so very inspiring.. I loved your book and made all my friends read it as well (who all loved it as well!)

    I was recently revisiting your book because I had forgotten about the Dow-Union Carbide connection and couldn’t remember why I had bad associations with Dow. Dow makes insulation for buildings and I am an architect – I am going do my best to educate my fellow architects on the social justice/environmental justice side of the products they choose for buildings.. The worst of it is that they are trying to sell their products as “green” for use with planted green roofs..

    Take care of yourself, ordinary folks like me need inspiration in truly amazing folks like you!


    • diane4justice Says:

      Hi Anna, I have a funny story for you. At the Seadrift Union Carbide/Dow plant they sometimes have open house for the neighbors. They give kiddie bags for the children and slick literature for the adults. They make sure all the trees are looking good and nothing is dead from being fumigated by some recent emission. One year the trees were dying and nothing could make them green so they got cans of Hunter Green spray paint and spray painted the trees and the leaves and the shrubs..thanks for writing and all that you do in your work educating your fellow workers. Diane

  8. James Says:

    Do not break the law and you will not be subjected to 30 hours of uncomfortabel processing!

    • diane4justice Says:

      Hi James, all the times I have been jailed have been for civil disobedience. In other words, I violate the law when I believe a worse crime is being ignored, for example, the Bhopal tragedy in India where over 20,000 people have died because of the toxic gas release of Union Carbide’s pesticide plant. The people living in that toxic legacy do not even have clean water to drink. That was why I was sitting in the Indian Consulate’s lobby in Houston: to bring attention in the USA. And by the way, I had permission to be there. Sometimes you’re jailed and you havent violated any laws.
      Also without people willing to get arrested you would not have the many of the civil rights we take for granted. Such as women’s right to vote. All great social movements in this country have came about because of civil disobedience.

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  10. Roane Says:

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  11. Exiruryique Says:

    Stunning, I did not know about that until now. Thanks!

    • diane4justice Says:

      hi, yep, there’s quite a bit of info on harris county jail (Houston). they were recently investigated for the deaths and lack of health care given to the inmates. You might check out http://www.texasjailproject.org It is a group i cofounded and it has lots of information and reports on jails in Texas. thanks for commenting. diane

  12. SheaferiaFler Says:

    Excuse me for writing Off-Topic – what WP template are you using? It looks great!!

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